Creativity and therapy combine in new Once Upon A Time workshop at Copperfields

The Once Upon a Time workshop

A creative group of women living with dementia have rediscovered magical memories while creating textile books, thanks to an innovative new workshop.

Artist and therapist Tracie Peisley started working with women and carers at Copperfields in Newington alongside Thanet community worker, Rachel Connelly.

The sessions,Once Upon a Time, see the group share stories and reconnect through sewing practice, games and song.

Tracie prepared linen covers and calico pages for the books and invited the women to personalise them with photographs, pockets, and hearts for loved ones.

The results have stimulated a beautiful exchange of heartfelt stories with one woman, Rita (pictured), including photos of riding horses and regaling stories of childhood – Rita’s devoted husband was a horseman and they rode together.

Photo Tracie Peisley

Tracie says there is consistency through each session. She said: “One of the things that astounds me each week is that despite the way the illness strips memory and function there are consistent themes that return each week through painting, sewing, drawing and reflection. There is a story asking to be heard and expressed.”

Group work is fundamental to the outcomes. “It’s not work I can do alone, the relationships are essential and the agency offered up by another person is critical,” she added.

Photo Tracie Peisley

Storytelling plays an integral part of the workshops with a listening game with Tracie reading fairy tales.  She said: “They are stories that help children make sense of intense dramas when they are small, made available to nourish the minds of the older generation. “

Singing individually and collectively provides a melodic ending to the sessions.

Racheal Salvesen, Copperfields manager, says the residents have enjoyed the sessions and are now looking to sew in their spare time.

The workshops are funded by ROSA UK, a charity for women, and forms part of arts festival, POW!